Colby college education program

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Initial Teacher Certification Standards


David Thomas


January 7, 15 & 26 2015

Evaluation Type

Classroom observation - Waterville Senior High School – USA and the World Period 1 P & Period 4 World History Period 2 P


Karen Kusiak


Does Not Meet

Partially Meets







A. Social Justice Competence: Requires a range of awareness, knowledge, and skills: 1) Self-awareness, 2) Understanding and valuing others, 3) Knowledge of societal inequities, 4) Skills to interact effectively with diverse people in different contexts, and 5) Skills to foster equity and inclusion.



January 7, 2015 David points out unexpected information about the Atlantic slave trade – for example many more enslaved Africans were sent to Brazil as compared to North America. While not explicitly an example of teaching for social justice, the comment allows students to anticipate more learning about the slave trade and outcomes.

January 15, 2015 – The USA in the World class continues with an examination of how slaves were treated during the Slave Trade voyages. Students explored excerpts from documents – including visual material – to understand the conditions during the Middle Passage.

January 26, 2015 – Students today are gathering a very broad overview of world religions. David takes time to explain that the scope of their study is – by necessity – very basic. Yet, he takes time to tell students that he has studied just small parts of Islam in one full course in college, and that he has studied the texts used in Judaism (Old Testament) and Christianity (New Testament & Old Testament) in two full courses.

B.1. Learner Development: The teacher understands how learners grow and develop, recognizing that patterns of learning and development vary individually within and across the cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional, and physical areas, and designs and implements developmentally appropriate and challenging learning experiences.



January 7, 2015 – David pauses several times to provide an opportunity to have students ask questions. He invites questions by acknowledging that a question that an individual student has is likely one that others have. He also looks around the room while giving students time to think about a possible question. (Beginning teachers are often more likely to hurriedly ask, “Any questions?” and then move right on without giving students an opportunity to ask.)

January 15, 2015 – Today some students either stated that they were hesitant to read aloud because of fear or, indeed, demonstrated that they are not fluent readers. David does not make it a problem when students are either reluctant or non-fluent readers. Most of the students in the class are fluent readers and they assist one another when oral reading is requested. It is good to have students read short passages/captions/titles orally because there may be students with low literacy levels (or inattentive students) in the class who will benefit from hearing the material read aloud.

January 26, 2015 – David monitors students as they work on their assigned readings on specific world religions. He offers details to help students understand the religion to a greater extent. (e.g. fasting during Ramadan)

B.2. Learning Differences: The teacher uses understanding of individual differences and diverse cultures and communities to ensure inclusive learning environments that enable each learner to meet high standards.



January 7, 2015 – While it is difficult to determine which students might have learning differences, David provides time for any student to have a mini-conference with him while the class is involved with independent work. David makes a point to list names of students who want him to come to their desk to straighten out an understanding. The practice highlights David’s concern with student understanding of course materials. He also creates a “class norm” of asking for additional help.

David quietly talks with a student about her inability to read from the board even though she sits close to it.

January 15, 2015 – See above – B.1.

B.3. Learning Environments: The teacher works with others to create environments that support individual and collaborative learning, and that encourage positive social interaction, active engagement in learning, and self motivation.



January 15, 2015 David monitors the class well while students work in groups. He maintains good humor when students joke among themselves. Some of the class jokes or chatter cause minor distractions, but overall the comments are not mean-spirited nor do they interfere with the objectives of the class. At this point in teaching, it is better to go with the humor than crack down on students. David offers preventive guidance before students are set to work by reminding them of expectations. For example, he reminds students to write notes based on the mini-presentations students make.

David is adept at getting students’ attention at the very end of class when many of them are happy to pack up. This is often a difficult time for novice teachers to regain students’ attention. However, David makes good use of the time just before the bell rang to reiterate points about the mid-year exam and how students should study for it.

January 26, 2015 - See B.1 above

Also, David gives careful directions when students transitions from whole group to partner work and then back. The transitions happen quickly as a result.

B.4. Content Knowledge: The teacher understands the central concepts, tools of inquiry, and structures of the discipline(s) he or she teaches and creates learning experiences that make these aspects of the discipline accessible and meaningful for learners to assure mastery of the content.



January 7, 2015 – Students process information in ways that are likely to develop strong learning and understanding. For example, students interpret maps (DBQ) for in-class work. Responses to the map activity are designed to be diverse given the open-ended structure of the prompt. Students are expected to cite materials in their written responses.

January 15, 2015 – Students again on this day read primary document excerpts and interpret them.

In an earlier class, David had asked this class of students to prepare debatable questions to spark discussion about reading students completed independently. He asked the students for their responses. One student offered an observation based on his reading: “One of the articles I read talked about before black slaves they used white indentured slaves.” David turns the observation into a question to consider: “What do you think about that?” David also adds to the information students had about white indentured slaves by explaining the typical conditions for indenture. Another student poses a seemingly innocent, or sincere, question about why enslaved Africans in America had children because the children would be born into slavery. When the conversation around this question made students imagine the process of human reproduction, David managed the discussion by treating his students maturely. Rather than closing off the discussion, he noted that it is natural for people to want to have other people close to them – a family.

January 26, 2015 – David readily answer students’ questions about or clarifies students’ tentative understandings of world religions. His study in college has prepared him for teaching the content today in this World History course.

He begins the class by asking students to make inferences about the spread of various religions based on a map that indicates where people who practice or follow major religions live today.

Near the end of the class, David provides context for what students are hearing when partners report out on a particular religion. He made distinctions among how historians, theologians, and philosophers might view a particular religion or even the role of religion.

B.5. Application of Content: The teacher understands how to connect concepts and use differing perspectives to engage learners in critical thinking, creativity, and collaborative problem solving related to authentic local and global issues.



January 7, 2015 - David models strategies to use to complete the DBQ Atlantic Rim Slave Trade Network activity. “This is what I would do…”

January 26, 2015 – The question about the spread of religion throughout the world was helpful to orient students to the task today. Students might have benefitted from a longer discussion of how world religions shape identity, or about what students know (or think they know) about interactions among major religious groups today, or even think about why awareness of major religions is desirable for students in high school. (What does it mean to be an educated citizen? Why is it important to know about major religions? What might a follower of a particular religious practice do to live a “good” life?)

B.6. Assessment: The teacher understands and uses multiple methods of assessment to engage learners in their own growth, to monitor learner progress, and to guide the teacher’s and learner’s decision making.



January 7, 2015 - At the beginning of class students review place names of Atlantic Rim locations.

January 15, 2015 – Students have ahead of them the mid-year exams as school policy requires.

B.7. Planning for Instruction: The teacher plans instruction that supports every student in meeting rigorous learning goals by drawing upon knowledge of content areas, curriculum, cross-disciplinary skills, and pedagogy, as well as knowledge of learners and the community context.



January 7, 2015 – It is clear that David has planned for time to work with students individually.

January 15, 2015 – David is using materials that had been prepared, or collected, by faculty in the social studies department over the course of several years. (It seems that one faculty member who prepared some of the slides has actually retired.) However, David is using the materials in his own way by pairing students for class work and by asking students to make mini-presentations.

B.8. Instructional Strategies: The teacher understands and uses a variety of instructional strategies to encourage learners to develop deep understanding of content areas and their connections, and to build skills to apply knowledge in meaningful ways.



January 7, 2015 – Students view material on the interactive white board, access maps via laptops and Moodle, interpret the maps, and write responses to an ill-structured problem. (Ill-structured is good.) Students also have an opportunity to ask questions of David.

Homework is explained clearly at the beginning of class so that the explanation is not rushed.

B.9. Professional Learning and Ethical Practice: The teacher engages in ongoing professional learning and uses evidence to continually evaluate his/her practice, particularly the effects of his/her choices and actions on others (learners, families, other professionals, and the community), and adapts practice to meet the needs of each learner.



January 26, 2015 – David is careful to make certain he is fulfilling all of the requirements for teacher certification. Indeed, in the real world, teachers are responsible for maintaining their own teaching certificate, so it is good practice to keep requirements and deadlines in mind.

B.10. Leadership and Collaboration: The teacher seeks appropriate leadership roles and opportunities to take responsibility for student learning, to collaborate with learners, families, colleagues, other school professionals, and community members to ensure learner growth, and to advance the profession.



January 7, 2015 – David takes time to ask his teacher – Mr. Ashton – about upcoming lesson activities in the World History class. He asks about the purpose of the activity and what the expectations of students are. He shares ideas with Mr. Ashton.

C. Educational Technology Competence: Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity, design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments, model digital-age work and learning, promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility, and engage in professional growth and leadership.



January 7, 2015 – Materials are prepared on the course Moodle. Students and teachers use Google Docs to share materials. An in-class computer is projected in the room for reference. Students at WSHS use shared laptops – or Computers on Wheels (COWs.) Care is taken to be sure laptops from one cart are returned to that cart. While students at WSHS do not have one-to-one access, it appears that these shared laptops work well and connect easily to the network. David takes time to be sure students label their work accurately so that it may be found in Google Doc.

January 15, 2015 – Students will complete their mid-year exam via the Moodle “quiz” feature. Students have access to the bank of questions from which actual questions will be drawn. While this exam will by necessity be multiple-choice or matching, more often students in the class construct their own written responses as a means to manipulate the content to deepen their learning. An automated exam at a time when grades need to be determined and reported quickly is in some ways a wise thing to use.

January 26, 2015 – David makes use of digital materials so that students will not fall behind in the course should school be closed for more than a day due to an impending storm.

Additional Comments:

January 7, 2015 - At the beginning of class students are handed copies of Bloom’s Taxonomy. At the time, Mr. Ashton and David indicate that students have worked with the taxonomy previously. I was not sure, though, that students understood completely how the taxonomy might be useful for them as they complete the reading for homework and form debatable questions. David did take time to distinguish between a factual question and a question that inspires conversation. Students’ responses will inform David about whether more time was needed for them to understand how to form a question that requires analysis, synthesis, or critical evaluation.

See also memo written about this class observation.

January 15, 2015 – After class today David and I talked about a student or two who created mild distractions in the class. None of the student behavior is malicious, mean, or disrespectful, yet the students are distracting. Yet one of the students who had been making jokes and asking unnecessary questions made a model presentation when she and her partner explained their document. She spoke clearly and with emphasis, she pointed to the image, and she explained why the image was significant. When moments like that happen, this particular student would benefit from hearing that her teachers appreciate her academic work or her understanding. Thus ignoring for the most part the small antics and jokes she made was good (David did this), but then a comment when she did something that was on target would be have been powerful. I am not suggesting that meaningless praise be offered. Rather, a comment such as, “You presented that very clearly, K, thank you!” or “Thanks for pointing out the details in that diagram. Good to notice them because they are important and you will likely see diagrams like this in other material as you continue your education or read for your own interest.” or “You mentioned everything I was expecting you to….great.”

(I didn’t mention this next point when we spoke after class, but another good practice you use is to move toward the students who are being a little chatty or distracted. Educators call this “proximity control.” It works very well for minor behavioral concerns.)

January 26, 2015 – In relation to comments above about proximity control, I noticed today that David stopped at a student’s desk and put his hand on the desk to gain a distracted student’s attention. He did not have to say anything to the student.

After class we talked about the practice of offering what Wiggins and McTighe would call “Big Ideas” or “Essential Questions.” Indeed, David had big ideas in the lesson today, but they happened in the moment rather than as planned ahead of time, as it appears. Thus, discussing how historians and theologians study central religious leaders (or “founders) in different ways and for different purposes is an important idea for students to grapple with. Similarly, noting that philosophers differ from theologians and that they ask different questions about life are big ideas.

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